Nov. 21, 2017
All Kansans want to live in a state where families, communities, and the economy thrive. That’s why last fall, the Kansas Center for Economic Growth released its Health and Prosperity Index, which compared Kansas and its neighboring states using nearly 40 indicators. The indicators included:
- Social and Community Context
- Education, Employment, and Earnings
- Health Infrastructure and Risk Behaviors
With indicators like these, rankings change gradually. From last year to this year, there were no significant changes to rankings in any category. Compared with overall outcomes in seven neighboring states, Kansas remains in the middle. While the full report will be released biennially, the policy recommendations listed in the 2016 report continue to be a roadmap for legislators as we strive to make Kansas a great place to live, learn, and work.
While legislators ended the most financially harmful provisions of the 2012 tax plan through the passage of Senate Bill 30 in June, there is still enormous damage to the budget in need of repair. Kansas needs additional revenue to reinvest in proven economic building blocks that provide for families, businesses, and communities, such as:
- K-12 and higher education. Every Kansas child deserves a high-quality education. Lawmakers should work to find a solution that satisfies the Gannon ruling, which requires adequate funding for schools, and reinvestment in our higher education institutions.
- Transportation infrastructure. Maintenance to Kansas highways, roads, and bridges has suffered as the highway fund was depleted to pay for failed tax policy. It’s time to reinvest in those critical needs for our state.
- Public safety and social services. Kansans have suffered as state agencies have had to scale back vital services, resulting in critically understaffed prisons, large caseloads, and unmet needs.
Help Struggling Families with Housing Costs Through Targeted Property Tax Assistance
Lawmakers should examine how housing credits can assist low-income individuals and families. Property tax circuit breaker programs — such as the Homestead Property Tax Rebate for renters eliminated in 2013 — can provide much-needed financial relief to individuals who pay a significant amount of their income toward housing. Future programs should explore helping more Kansans by broadening eligibility requirements.
Increase Kansans’ Access to Health Care by Expanding KanCare
Expanding KanCare would provide health insurance coverage to uninsured Kansans and increase access to insurance among Kansans of color. In addition, KanCare expansion would be particularly helpful for underserved rural areas, as nearly one-third of rural Kansas hospitals are at risk of closing.  Expansion would also expand access to mental health services and provide thousands of good-paying jobs in parts of the state that badly need them. 
Improve Dental Health Care
In Kansas, hundreds of thousands of people do not have access to dental care, especially senior citizens, people with disabilities, those living in rural areas, and children.  Most Kansas counties do not have enough dental health providers.  Allowing dental therapists to help address Kansas’ severe dental health care shortage would assist these Kansans by providing access to high-quality, cost-effective dental care.
Emily Fetsch is the Kansas Center for Economic Growth’s policy and research analyst.
1 See Gabriella Dunn, “1 in 3 Rural Kansas Hospitals at risk of Closing in Study.” February 2, 2016. The Wichita Eagle. Available online: http://www.kansas.com/news/business/health-care/article58026428.html
2 See Chris Brown, et al. “Economic and Employment Effects of Expanding KanCare in Kansas.” February 2013. George Washington University. Available online: http://www.expandkancare.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/Economic-and-Employment-Effects-of-Expanding-KanCare-in-Kansas-Report.pdf
3 Kansas Dental Project. http://kansasdental.com/
4 See Tim Carpenter, “Kansas Coalition puts Shine on Dental Therapist Option for Unmet Demand.” August 28, 2016. The Topeka Capital Journal. Available online: http://cjonline.com/news/state/2016-08-28/kansas-coalition-puts-shine-dental-therapist-option-unmet-demand